Plot Blog

Olitory musings.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First harvest!

We had our first produce off the plot today! Sadly not something I can take credit for planting, but the strawberries left on the plot by the previous owner have started ripening. There are at least three varieties we think, judging by fruit size and shape, but we have no idea which. Whatever they are, they're all extremely tasty. I only hope we can beat the slugs/birds to the rest as they ripen up.


We spent a couple of sessions on the plot this weekend. Saturday was really rather hot and we got a little singed. Sunday was less sunny and extremely windy, with a quick but sharp rain shower that drove us into the shed for shelter.


There was yet more digging, and we now have about 3/4 of the whole plot dug over, with the rest (barring a small area left to dig) under the weed suppressing membrane, where it will most likely stay for this year. We will grow pumpkins and squash across it so it won't go to waste. Many thanks to Anne as always, who doesn't seem to mind digging while I'm faffing about in the greenhouse or planting stuff.


On Saturday I started fixing up my greenhouse drip irrigation system, which is basically a Big Drippa low pressure system that is going to be connected to a 100 litre water butt rather than the quite miserly 10 litre bag the system comes with - this should keep the plants inside the greenhouse watered for at least a week without any rain topping up the butt. On Sunday I moved in the first plants, two tomatoes (Moneymaker and Ferline) and two sweet peppers (Dulce Italiano and another sweet bell variety, the name of which escapes me at the moment). I'm using large pots rather than growbags, as pots are re-usable and easier to move about should I need to.


Outside the greenhouse the Under-Gardener and I sowed some carrots, parsnip and spinach on Saturday, and on Sunday I planted five more tomato plants (one Moneymaker, two Ferline and two Tamina), well staked against the wind! We also planted a total of ten Russian Giant sunflowers, both around our compost heap and alongside one of the sheds.


The plot really is starting to look like a proper allotment now, and so far most things are growing away well. I'll be back in the week to check on the greenhouse pots and try to grab some more strawberries before the wildlife gets to them.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

RIP Sam's Pumpkin, aged 1 week...

A quick trip to a local garden centre yesterday and I've now got half the greenhouse irrigation system - i.e. a water butt and a downpipe fixture that fits the greenhouse guttering (with a little silicone sealant to help). I need to source some appropriate flexible hose to link between the downpipe and the butt, and am still waiting for the irrigation dripper system to arrive in the post, but nearly there. I also bought a replacement for the 4-tier grow-house in our back garden, as the cover had perished over the past few years of use. The shelves of the old one now reside in the greenhouse on the plot - no point in wasting them, and greenhouse staging is amazingly expensive!

Sadly on arriving at the plot it became clear that Sam's Pumpkin had succumbed to the local slug population within a week - not even the stem remained. My three courgette plants had been attacked but it seems they were large enough to stave off the slugs. I'll replace Sam's Pumpkin and make sure I grow it on in a pot until it's mature enough to do the same. 

Apart from the usual hoeing and watering session on the plot (now rendered fairly pointless by a night of rain, but such is life), we dug over another bed and planted eight "Green Globe" artichoke plants. Eight seems a lot but there may be sacrifices to the slugs, we've got the space and we like artichokes! There won't be much of a crop this year, if any, but hopefully next year we'll get a good number, and the plants make an impressive display themselves.

I also planted ("puddled in" is I believe the correct term) another row of leeks - seedlings this time rather than seed, which I found at the garden centre. They should give an earlier crop than the seeds I sowed last week. We'll not be short of leeks if they all survive.

The Under-Gardener really enjoyed with the final job on the plot; incinerating a bin full of dried weeds and grass tussocks that had previously been dug from the plot. The wind was in the right direction (i.e. away from the adjoining houses) and strong enough to really get the incinerator burning fiercely, so it didn't take long at all. 


Monday, May 02, 2011

Bank Holiday allotmenteering

Long time no post, but there's not been much activity on the plot apart from infrequent bouts of clearing/digging ground. Until this long weekend, that is.


Rather than watch the Royal Wedding live on Friday we went to the plot, and ended up spending almost the whole day glazing the greenhouse. When I took over the second half of our plot the previous owner left behind a 6x4' aluminium greenhouse frame, assembled, and a stack of glass panels. It turned out that these panels had originally been stacked with sheets of newspaper between them, probably to provide some protection. However over time being stacked on one plot or another (a long time, the newspapers were dated 1999!) the paper had all but composted, which meant that every single pane of glass had to be scraped and cleaned  on both sides with soapy water before assembling into the greenhouse frame. A long a tedious job, but with thanks to my lovely wife doing most of the cleaning while I attempted the ultimate breakable 3D jigsaw, we got it done.


Shiny and clean greenhouse
So I am now the proud owner of a functioning greenhouse. Now to fill it. Before I do so, I am going to rig up a drip irrigation system linked to a water butt (collecting rainwater from the greenhouse roof), as I cannot visit the plot every day so any contents may shrivel and die if the current sunshine levels we're experiencing in the South East continue!

On Saturday we visited our local garden centre near Sunbury-on-Thames, that has been completely refurbished into a shiny new flagship store. We managed to come away with some new plants for the garden at home as well as some flowers and a few veggies for the plot. This included two already quite large aubergine plants (Moneymaker) that I have re-potted into large pots and will move into the greenhouse once my irrigation system is up and running.


We also bought some marigolds and nasturtiums for the "flower bed" at the front of our plot. This was supplemented with three lupins purchased on Sunday's visit to the Hertfordshire Garden Show at Knebworth House. This was a seriously garden-related long weekend! The flower bed was planted today in another marathon session on the plot, and once they have bedded in they'll look rather nice, and hopefully attract lots of bees!


Flower bed at the front of the plot
Anne also planted some flowers (including three striking pink Phlox) in a smaller "flower bed" near the shed/ seating area of the plot, which will also look great when they mature. No pictures yet as the area was in some shade once planted as the afternoon wore on.


Behind the flower bed in the shot on the left are my spuds, first earlies and maincrop, which are coming on nicely.


Further back are the onions (red), garlic and a row of leeks sown from seed. A little late but the ones I had growing on from home were singed in the hot weather and didn't pull through.


Also sown today were beetroot (Solo F1), a variety I've not tried before. The under-gardener helped with sowing those, as the seeds were big enough to handle. I'd hoped to sow some carrots as well but it was so windy on the plot that I didn't dare, for fear of broad-casting the things across the entire allotment site!


I also planted a small block of Minipop baby sweetcorn, more as an experiment than anything else. I detest "big" sweetcorn but quite like the baby variety in stir fries etc so it's worth a punt. I have heard that they don't give a huge crop, but we'll see.


Courgettes in their individual watering holes
The last things I planted today were three courgette plants (see photo) and a pumpkin, all bought cheaply from the garden centre in Saturday. The courgette variety was not specified so we'll have to wait and see how they turn out. The pumpkin is known as "Ghost Rider", which is the main reason I chose it, and is now known and labelled as "Sam's Pumpkin" for the under-gardener to look after.


All in all a very productive weekend and the plot is starting to look more like an allotment with a plan. How much pain we're in tomorrow remains to be seen...


We still have approximately half the ground to clear - some was largely grass, which has now been killed off and is awaiting digging, and the rest still under black plastic, where it will probably remain for this season whilst we work on the rest.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Expansion, and squidgy spuds

Well. It's been a while since I've been to the allotment, due to a mixture of severe weather and illness before Christmas, and the Under-gardeners birthday celebrations that lasted at least two weekends in January.


However last week I got a call from the allotment association secretary telling me that the tenant of the half-plot adjacent to mine was giving it up, and would I like to expand sideways and take over the whole plot?


The previous owner also wanted to know whether I would like her greenhouse, for a small fee.


Would I?


I went down there this morning to take ownership. The new half of my plot has been much more recently cultivated, so will take a lot less work to turn back into manageable beds. In fact I dug over a sizeable bed in about half an hour this morning, removing at least 25-30kg of old spuds. Sadly they were all (or nearly all) too old and slug-ridden to keep, and may have been blighted as they'd been in the ground far too long and looked suspiciously squidgy, so into the bin with them.


The greenhouse is quite small but will be fine for seedlings and growing a few more exotic fruits over the summer. There's currently no glass in it but the previous owner has more than enough stacked away on the plot, along with loads of clips and fittings, so when it's a bit warmer I'll have fun trying to piece all that back together.


There is also a small shed on the new half plot, which the allotment secretary is going to find a new home for. I'll keep the base though as it will either do for a sitting area or I'll slide my newer shed across on to it, and use the (slightly wonkier) slabs I laid for making paths etc. The previous owner also left a large green plastic patio table and four chairs, which after a clean up will be great for picnics or resting my weary bones after digging.


There are also a few plants on the new half that I might keep, including some lavenders that will attract bees, a large selection of strawberries that need reining in a bit but apparently give a good crop, a rosemary bush, oregano bush, and an as yet unidentified bush that the previous owner obtained as a cutting from the French couple across the path. She couldn't remember what it was so I'll have to ask them. It produces purple leaves that can be used in salads - I know nothing else about it.


While I was there this morning my neighbour on the other side said hello, and pointed out that my original half plot had not been worked for as long as she'd been there, a least 5 or 6 years. That explains why it's so riddled with perennial weeds, and a pain to dig. At least now I can get some crops in the ground on my new half plot, and work away at the heavier digging on the old half a little at a time. I might even cover some of it with weed membrane to help kill off the perennials, and plant a selection of pumpkins and squash through it this year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shed II

The shed is up. In complete contrast to yesterday's lovely sunny autumnal weather, today featured rain, more rain, wind, cold and mud. Typical.

However, with sterling help from my brother Colin and The Under-Gardener, we got the shed up eventually. Once it's dried out a little inside (!) and I've transferred all my tools from the garage I can begin pottering in earnest, and get rest of the plot converted from wasteland to cultivation.

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shed I

My new shed was delivered today. Bought it from http://www.buyshedsdirect.co.uk, which I can recommend so far, for reasonable price, ease of purchase and delivery. Delivered to my allotment on the day requested, with a text the previous working day to confirm am or pm slot. They don't deliver at the weekend, but happily my purchasing the shed coincided with school half term holidays, so I was taking a few days off anyway.

The shed is only 6x4' (maximum size allowed on our plots - although some folk do seem to have sneaked larger ones on there, but it'll do me). I bought a cheap ship-lap version as I won't be keeping anything expensive in it. However it is made from pressure-treated timber that (allegedly) won't require annual repainting with creosote substitute or similar stinky chemicals.

Construction begins tomorrow, with help from one of my brothers, and the Under-Gardener, so I cannot yet vouch for ease of putting the thing together, but having lugged all the bits on to my plot it seems pretty solidly constructed, for a shed at the cheaper end of the market. Free solar light too, which is a bonus.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Flagging


Took delivery of 70 concrete paving slabs today. 680 kg that needed shifting off the pallet and onto the plot to form a path along one side and a base for a shed (plus a little left over for a seating/bbq area!).

Muscles aching quite a bit now, but job done, although I was flagging (sorry!) towards the end. The weather wasn't much help, but I guess the driving rain stopped me overheating!

I can now order the shed for delivery in a few weeks.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Horseradish

An excellent discovery. Thanks to a fellow member of UK Veg Gardeners I had it confirmed that a mystery plant growing on my plot is horseradish.

It can be seen growing behind the Under Gardener in the photo in the previous post. I was not sure what it was, but as it seemed to have been planted on purpose rather than being a random weed, I hoped it would be something useful.

I may reduce the size of the patch as it's pretty big (horseradish tends to take over if not controlled, I am told). Any decent sized roots I dig up will be processed and stored according to the guidance I found on this excellent page.

Horseradish sauce for ever more! Fantastic.

First seeds in!

More digging and clearing of grass, but it's going well. Probably almost a third of usable ground has been dug over now (i.e. not including the space marked out for the shed, seating/BBQ area or compost), with assistance from my lovely wife Anne, who doesn't hang about when she's got a garden fork in her hands.

The Under Gardener had a bit of a go too...

(Apologies for quality, taken on a camera phone...)

...he did a sterling job gathering up perennial weed roots for the incinerator as well.

I finished the morning on the plot by sowing my first seeds. A nice milestone.

Only two varieties:
  • a Chinese radish 'Mantanghong', which I only bought as I liked it's colour, and I've never grown winter radishes.
  • a few seeds of Spinach 'Matador', which were being given away free from the walled vegetable garden at Hughenden Manor when we visited on August Bank Holiday. It may be too late in the year to sow these really, but if we get a mild Autumn I might get a few leaves.
The rest of the currently dug-over area will be used for over-wintering onions, garlic and shallots, when they arrive in October.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Extra Muscle

Very grateful for help from my brother Neil on the allotment today. Together we cleared and levelled enough space for a 6'x4' shed. I can now order one, along with some materials for a stable base.  Once I've got a shed in place to store all our tools it will be much easier to work on the rest of the plot.

While we were doing this Anne carried on digging at the less overgrown end of the plot. We now have enough space dug over for two 4' wide beds. I've got overwintering onions and garlic on order, so they'll go in there once they arrive.

Extra help was given by Sam the Under-gardener and his cousin Reuben, who helped stack the weeds and roots. Compostables went into my new 300 litre "dalek" composter (bought from our local authority who do a good offer), and non-compostables (bindweed etc) into my shiny new incinerator (courtesy of Wilkinson's). Once they've dried out a bit the incinerator should make short work of them.

We agreed, after some trial and error, that perhaps small children should come under the heading of "non-compostable"...